Teachers Told Us What They Really Want This Teacher Appreciation Week

"As much as I like good coffee, I would much rather have school supplies."

Some public servants in the United States are honored regularly. Members of the U.S. military are acknowledged at sporting events, police officers are given awards for bravery, and so on. Teachers, though, usually get their appreciation once a year — over the course of this week — in the form of one-time free meals, special offers at retail stores or well-meaning gestures from their classes'  parents.

This year's Teacher Appreciation Week comes in the wake of widespread teacher protests, in which education professionals across the country banded together to demand higher pay and more resources. So we decided to go a little deeper and ask how educators actually want us to show our appreciation, not just this week but every day of the year. To find out, we reached out to state-level winners of Teacher of the Year and several other experienced members of the education profession. 

Here's what teachers really want this Teacher Appreciation Week.

Sean McCombs receives the National Teacher of the Year Award from President Barack Obama in 2014.
Sean McCombs receives the National Teacher of the Year Award from President Barack Obama in 2014. Pete Souza / The White House

Sean McComb, Maryland, 2014 National Teacher of the Year: 

"Appreciate us—our work—by seeking to understand the challenges of childhood for so many in our country. From the effects of childhood trauma to teen anxiety and depression, all of America's social ills—and the creators of future antidotes to those ills—come through our classrooms. Learn about the complexity of our work, and its potential."

Brett Bigham, 2014 State Teacher of the Year, Oregon: 

"As much as I like good coffee, I would much rather have school supplies. Last year I spent over $1,200 out of pocket buying supplies for other people's children. Send me some good markers, or nice paper or even better, come spend a few hours at school with us so you can see what we need!"

Jeff Baxter, 2014 State Teacher of the Year, Kansas: 

"Teachers will sacrifice anything to know they made a difference in a student's life."

Monica Washington, 2014 State Teacher of the Year, Texas: 

"From time to time, a report about great things that teachers are doing would be nice. I get tired of the teacher arrest stories."
Randi Weingarten, President of American Federation of Teachers
Randi Weingarten, President of American Federation of Teachers Michael Campbell

Allison Parker Riddle, 2014 State Teacher of the Year, Utah: 

"Recognizing the cultural significance of teachers in every community. The idea that we strengthen communities and make them safer. So many more young people would consider careers in education if they thought teachers were revered by the public."

Randi Weingarten, President of American Federation of Teachers: 

"When it comes to appreciating educators, please, please, please take heed of an old expression: walk the walk, don't just talk the talk. Educators go into our profession because they want to make a difference in students' lives. They need real investments in teaching and learning like books, supplies and smaller class sizes; a voice in what happens in their schools; and latitude in their classroom so they can tailor their teaching to meet the needs of their students. Teaching is hard work, and teachers need to know we have their back. They need the conditions and the resources to do that work, and they need to be able to get paid enough that they don't have to work three and four other jobs. The best way for us to appreciate educators is to hear what they're saying, understand what they need to succeed, and help them secure the resources and support they need." 

Katie Brown, 2014 State Teacher of the Year, Washington: 

"Ask your local newspapers and/or media outlets to write a positive story about a student at least once a month!" 

Beth Hutchens-Maloney, 2014 State Teacher of the Year, Arizona: 

"Vote for pro-public education candidates for public office!"

Melissa Tomlinson, special education math teacher, New Jersey: 

"The first thing I will note is that we ask that the term Educator or Education Professional be used instead of teacher. We work really hard to bring recognition that we are not the only adults in our schools that are responsible for the well being of the students. We would be nowhere without our Educational Support Paraprofessionals that work by our side. Above all else, I believe that the best way people can show appreciation is by showing respect. The narrative that has been put forth by those seeking to undermine our public education system has greatly undermined how educators are viewed. Educators spend countless hours of their own time outside of work in preparation for their classes and often sacrifice personal and family time to make sure they are doing what is best for their students. One of the best ways that respect can be shown, for this moment in time is to support the educators that are standing up to fight for funding and resources in their schools by engaging in state-wide actions and showing a presence at their state capitals. Educators do not want to disrupt the school day, but the legislative failure to fully fund schools has gotten to the point where learning environments have become harmful to the students. We are in a time where action is needed."

Nick Kaczmarek, 6th grade English teacher at the Environmental Charter School. 

"Start and don't stop the discussion on inequitable schools until we close the opportunity gap. That would mean more than anything."

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